I’ll continue to muse about various video games, and it just so happens the next one I want to do that for is Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus.
It is the third video game in the Senran Kagura series, and is the sequel to Senran Kagura Burst – which you can find my musings about by clicking here.
The game was released for the PlayStation Vita in Japan on February 28th 2013, whilst the North American release was October 14th 2014 and the European release was October 15th 2014. Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus was also released worldwide on Steam on June 1st 2016, though it is the Vita version that I’ll be focusing on here.
Oh, and this should be a given because I’m musing about Senran Kagura, but things might get a little NSFW.
Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus takes place immediately after the events of Senran Kagura Burst, and introduces 10 new characters on top of the 10 originally featured in the previous game.
The girls of Hanzō National Academy return, as do the girls from Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy – except due to the events of Burst, they are no longer Hebijo students and have formed their own team called Homura’s Crimson Squad.
However, there are new group of students from Hebijo on the scene, and then there are also the shinobi of Gessen Girls’ Academy.
All four factions clash in this game as part of a Shinobi Battle Royale, with each school having their own story to be followed.
As is ever the case for Senran Kagura, there will be plenty of clothing damage to go around – in fact, this game ramps up the fanservice as even underwear can be destroyed. A playable roster of 20 characters means that there are plenty of different fighting styles, techniques and Ninja Arts to master.
Hanzō National Academy, Gessen Girls’ Academy, Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Acadey and Homura’s Crimson Squad all have their own respective stories to play through, complete with the usual Japanese voice-over with English subtitles.
Shinovi Versus also features a multiplayer mode, allowing you to take on other players ad hoc or online in three different modes.
20 characters is a lot to get through, so let’s waste no time in reintroducing the familiar faces who are returning from Burst, starting with the shinobi from Hanzō National Academy.
Asuka, voiced by Hitomi Harada, is a 2nd year student at Hanzō Nationl Academy. She is the granddaughter of the legendary shinobi Hanzō, who is the namesake of the academy she attends. As such, she has a lot of hidden potential. She has a bright and positive personality, which results in her never quite being as intimidating as she wants. Still, her friends and fellow shinobi can rely on her for support.
Ikaruga, voiced by Asami Imai, is a 3rd year student at Hanzō National Academy and the class president. She is also the successor of the Houou family organisation’s shinobi line, though not being the biological heir has resulted in feuds with her adoptive brother. Ever since she was young she has had special classes, and as such can perform tea ceremonies and cook fine Japanese cuisine. However, her meals are ‘interesting’ when she creates new recipes on the fly. Ikaruga is gentle, thoughtful and kind, whilst also being a proud person.
Katsuragi, voiced by Yū Kobayashi, is also a 3rd year at Hanzō National Academy. While she can be over-the-top and easily moved to tears, the other Hanzō students see her as something of an older sister. Her hobby is sexually harassing her fellow classmates, and she’ll even attempt to do the same to her opponents as well. Her behaviour can be quite embarrassing, but Katsuragi is entirely dedicated to becoming ever stronger at the same time.
Yagyū, voiced by Kaori Mizuhashi, is a 1st year student at Hanzō National Academy. She is fully aware that the shinobi world is ruthless, and she accepts that way of life. Whilst she does wield considerable power, she seeks the approval of her peers. Sometimes she can come across as a bit lonely, but she has formed a close bond with fellow shinobi Hibari as they are both the same age.
Hibari, voiced by Yuka Iguchi, is another 1st year student at Hanzō National Academy. She was born into a long line of prestigious shinobi, but she tends to feel that she isn’t quite good enough. Espionage is very much Hibari’s strongest suit. She can be a bit immature and causes trouble in her class, but she works hard at everything she does. That, together with her genuine nature, has earned her the respect of her fellow shinobi.
That covers the five members of Hanzō National Academy, who are pretty much the same as they ever were in Burst – though considering Shinovi Versus takes place after Burst, it’s safe to say that they are more experienced shinobi in this game.
As ever, if you were to ask me to pick a favourite shinobi from Hanzō National Academy, I would say Asuka. I like her personality, but her combat style also happens to be the kind of thing I prefer in these kinds of games.
The next bunch of familiar faces make up Homura’s Crimson Squad – Homura and her allies moved on from being Hebijo students at the end of Burst. You actually have to play through the stories of Hanzō, Gessen and Hebijo to unlock their story, but the game has no problems telling you about the abilities of the Crimson Squad girls during loading screens long before you unlock them…
Homura, voiced by Eri Kitamura, is a former 2nd year student of Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy. Due to certain events in Burst, she is now living as a fugitive with her fellow classmates. Homura is thankful for her friends, and relentless towards her rivals. She respects the strong no matter what side they are on.
Yomi, voiced by Ai Kayano, is a former 2nd year student of Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy. Yomi grew up in the slums and has an intense hatred of the wealthy as well as those born into wealth. She views her fellow Crimson Squad members as sisters, particularly as she never had any siblings of her own. Yomi uses both a broadsword and crossbow in battle. She also loves bean sprouts.
Hikage, voiced by Ryoko Shiraishi, is a former 3rd year student of Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy. Being expressionless and wordless most of the time makes it hard for others to tell what she is thinking. Whilst she claims to have no emotions, being surrounded by friends who do have them has given her quite the curiosity about them.
Mirai, voiced by Saori Gotō, is a former 1st year student of Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy. Whilst she strives to have the air of a mature adult, her immaturity tends to seep out. She hates being ignored. Mirai has tried to accept her flat chest, but that is just another insecurity due to being surrounded by girls who are generously endowed.
Haruka, voiced by Megumi Toyoguchi, is a former 3rd year student of Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy. She’s a sadist who acts like the queen of the castle and really quite enjoys teasing the weak. Despite that, she acts almost like a mother figure towards her juniors – even nurturing them so that they don’t succumb to the sorrow of choosing the paths they did in life.
Whilst Homura’s Crimson Squad were pretty much antagonists in Burst, here (and in subsequent games) they are pretty much anti-heroes. The paths of both good and evil shinobi have been closed to them, so they’ve been left with little other choice but to become renegades.
Again, if I were to pick favourites, I would choose Homura and Mirai. Homura has been a character I’ve always liked, and Mirai being a writer and anime fan just makes me appreciate her more. I just wish I could get used to her back-dash…
With the character introductions for Hanzō National Academy and Homura’s Crimson Squad done, the next logical step is to take a look at the characters that were newly introduced in this game: the shinobi of Gessen Academy, and the new elites of Hebijo.
Yumi, voiced by Yumi Hara, is a 3rd year student and the leader of the shinobi at Gessen Girls’ Academy. She lost her parents when she was younger, so her grandfather, Kurokage, raised her and the other Gessen girls. Kurokage was a rival to the legendary shinobi Hanzō. She has a cool personality, and fights with a combination of Japanese dance and ice-based Ninja Arts.
Murakumo, voiced by Hisako Kanemoto, is a 3rd year student at Gessen Girls’ Academy. She’s incredibly shy, hence the mask. If she’s not wearing her mask, then she stutters her way through every syllable when she speaks, and will use anything she can get her hands on to conceal her face. She fights with a spear and giant cleaver.
Yozakura, voiced by Kaori Ishihara, is a 2nd year student at Gessen Girls’ Academy. Typically she is serious and humourless, but should things go awry then she will fly into a rage. When this happens, her hometown accent slips out. She wears a pair of gigantic gauntlets in order to augment her punching power.
Shiki, voiced by Ayano Yamamoto, is a 1st year student at Gessen Girls’ Academy. She has a valley girl accent, and many friends outside of her shinobi team. Her classmates can count on her during training. Shiki wields a large double-bladed scythe, which she spins dramatically in battle.
Minori, voiced by Hiromi Igarashi, is a 1st year students at Gessen Girls’ Academy. She is incredibly immature for her age, being an innocent girl who loves nothing more than to play games. She has entrusted herself to Yozakura for training. Minori’s main weapons are a bucket and frying pan, using them to fight in a style that seems almost like magic.
It seems that Yumi has found herself with quite the popularity within Japan, but I don’t really think much of her either way. Whilst I do quite enjoy using her ice-based attacks to freeze foes in place, I’ll always prefer Asuka and Homura to her.
If you asked me to pick a favourite shinobi from Gessen Girls’ Academy, I’d probably have to say Murakumo. Yozakura’s a pretty sound pick as well, but the shy masked girl just wins out over the others for me.
Now here’s a weird thing – Minori just doesn’t quite sit right with me. I think it might be something to do with the nature of Senran Kagura and her childish personality. What makes this particularly odd is that I have no qualms with Hibari or Mirai – in fact, Mirai is just behind Asuka and Homura as one of my favourite characters.
Sure, Hibari and Minori can be immature at times, but Minori is like that all the time. Like most of the cast, her bust may be well-grown, but she is far from grown up. What makes it extra frustrating is that her fighting style is one that I quite enjoy.
The Gessen Girls’ Academy shinobi aren’t the only newcomers. A new group of students at Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy seek to restore the honour of their school after the former Elites were defeated by the Hanzō Academy shinobi.
Miyabi, voiced by Hiromi Harata, is a third year student at Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy and leader of its prestigious would-be Elites. She was powerful enough to attain a leadership role during her first year, but she lost her memories and abilities when she was seriously injured during a particular mission. As a result, she was hospitalised for three years and led an empty existence. A certain event caused everything she lost to resurface, allowing her stand again as part of the Hebijo reconstruction effort. She wields a seven-prong sword and a black flame.
Murasaki, voiced by Sayuri Yahagi, is a 2nd year student at Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy and Imu’s little sister. Talking with other people is something she is bad at, so she spends morning until night playing with her stuffed bear, Bebeby, in her room. Since being admitted to Hebijo, she has never attended class and as such is the first truant student in the academy’s history. She can identify what kind of person someone is by their smell.
Imu, voiced by Chiwa Saito, is a 3rd year student at Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy and Miyabi’s best friend. The incident that injured Miyabi also put Imu in the hospital for a year. After that, she retired from being a shinobi in order to support her best friend’s recovery. Everything she does is for Miyabi, hence her working with her in order to reconstruct Hebijo. She is able to manipulate the length and thickness of the pole she wields in battle.
Ryōbi, voiced by Yoko Hikasa, is a 1st year at Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy and Ryōna’s twin sister. Both twins transferred together from Gessen Girls’ Academy. Much like Mirai, she has a complex about her small chest. She is the polar opposite of Ryōna, displaying numerous sadistic tendencies. She puts her hobby of sharpshooting to use in battle by shooting foes from a distance with her sniper rifle.
Ryōna, voiced by MAKO, is a 1st year student at Hebijo Clandestine Girls’ Academy and Ryōbi’s twin sister. She is a hardcore masochist who enjoys being bullied, being scolded and showing off her boobs. In battle she glides like a figure skater, and shoots wildly with four handguns – two for each hand.
I would probably go with Ryōna as my favourite of the Hebijo girls, which is only because of her combat style and absolutely nothing to do with her masochism, I swear. Her spinning Breach Art is pretty great for clearing out large crowds of enemies, and some of her attacks have the added bonus of freezing foes.
You’d think I’d more sympathetic to Ryōbi with her complex about her chest, particularly as I am a fan of Mirai. However, considering her Shinobi Transformation bumps her chest size up quite significantly, she doesn’t have it as hard as Mirai – who remains as flat as a board whether she has transformed or not.
Much like with Gessen’s Yumi, I just feel indifference towards Miyabi, Imu and Murasaki – well, maybe more the first two. I find Murasaki to be a bit more likeable.
Though I do have to admit that I quite like Imu’s dedication to Miyabi. Sure, the profile may call them ‘best friends’, but it doesn’t require a pair of yuri goggles to see that Imu is practically infatuated with her leader.
That covers all the characters who are available without DLC. Whilst there are none that I despise as much as Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni-‘s Mana Imagawa, I do feel pretty indifferent to the newer characters. Perhaps I hold a bias towards Asuka, Homura and their allies because I’ve spent more time with them courtesy of the anime and Burst.
Talking of Burst, the gameplay in Shinovi Versus more or less remains the same, except this time in a 3D environment rather than 2.5D. Dynasty Warriors would be an apt comparison for what one would expect from this game.
There are four different stories to play through, and you can switch freely between them when not playing through a mission. Well, sort of – as previously mentioned, you gotta get through the Hanzō, Gessen and Hebijo stories if you want to play the Crimson Squad story. Or you could just press a certain combination of buttons to skip all that…
Each mission pretty much starts with you fighting a bunch of nameless foes, before getting to the boss. There may be some variation on that, like you might just fight the boss straight away – but the majority of missions stick to the formula.
In addition to the story, each character has her own set of missions, which can be accessed by choosing Shinobi Girl’s Heart on the mission select screen. These exaggerate particular traits of the girls, so they are all pretty much just played for laughs. One issue I have with these missions is that the dialogue between characters plays out during gameplay, so it’s entirely possible to finish the mission long before someone has finished talking. You can wait around to hear what they have to say if you want, but that’s not really ideal.
The combat is practically identical to the system of Burst. The shinobi have light and heavy attacks, and Aerial Raves allow them to continue pummelling their foes in mid-air. Naturally, clothing damage is ever-present – in fact, it is possible to shred underwear as well. Should that happen, a pair of stickers of the girl’s own chibified face will cover their nipples, whilst light is used to cover the lower parts.By attacking opponents, you can build up a shinobi’s Ninja Art gauge. Once they have one scroll, it becomes possible for them to use Shinobi Transformation. This results in a change of costume, different attacks and the use of Secret Ninja Arts, as well as restoring the shinobi’s HP.Secret Ninja Arts are special attacks that deal more damage than regular attacks. You’ll need one or two scrolls in your Ninja Art gauge before you can use one, but they are well worth it. Should you use a Secret Ninja Art to finish off a foe… well, this is Senran Kagura, so it seems pretty obvious what the outcome will be.
Another thing that comes from Burst are Yin, Yang and Flash modes.Yin mode is what you get when a shinobi goes frantic and strips down to her underwear. Yin mode offers all sorts of bonuses when it is mastered: increased combo length and longer combo timer, the ability to recover both Health and Ninja Art gauges by taunting, Yin moves, higher damage, more invincibility frames on your dash and your Limit Break will only consume 5% health instead of 10%. Whilst going Frantic provides a huge boost in offence, it comes as the cost of reduced defence.When a girl uses her Shinobi Transformation, you’ll get Yang Mode. Maxing out the Yang affinity provides the following: access to longer combos, an extra Aerial Rave loop, enhanced damage, invincibility on your dash and auto recovery on both Health and Ninja Art gauges. It will also prevent you from being stunned when you are hit.Now here’s a change from Burst – in that game, Flash mode was unlocked by master both Yin and Yang attributes. In Shinovi Versus, Flash Mode is what you get by just staying in your uniform – no Shinobi Transformation or going Frantic required. The downside is that you aren’t able to use your Ninja Arts, but mastering Flash mode grants you the following boons: higher damage, invincibility on your dash, faster building of your Ninja Art gauge, infinite Aerial Raves, increased timing to pull off a parry, an enhanced guard and a 1.5x increase to both attack and defence. In addition, you also get extra experience and zeni (the in-game currency).
You can’t have a Senran Kagura game without a dressing room. In the dressing room, you can change a character’s uniform, shinobi outfit, lingerie and hairstyle, as well as equip up to five different accessories.
As you play through the different stories you will unlock different clothing, and you can also buy more things from the store. At the store, you can also find the Lingerie Lottery, where you can try winning new lingerie by exchanging either zeni or Lottery Tokens.
Whilst there are a few different hairstyles available for the characters to try out, you can’t change the colour of their hair.
With accessories, you can choose a specific body part to equip them to, and then you are able to further fine tune their position, as well as size.
The Vita’s touchscreen capabilities are used in the dressing room as well, as you might expect. Should you want to see what a girl looks like with her clothes damaged, the rear touch pad can help with that.
So, my overall thoughts on Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus are that it’s a pretty good way to kill some time. None of the new characters made too much of an impression on me, but the variety of the cast does mean that there are plenty of different fighting styles to learn.
The fanservice from Burst has only been increased, and the story is pretty much just there as an excuse to have four different factions of shinobi fight.
The 3DS games are more story-driven, whilst the Vita titles are more about the fanservice – or that’s the impression I get from having played Burst and Shinovi Versus. Having seen Asuka, Homura and their allies developed over the course of Burst, it seems pretty evident why the Shinovi Versus newcomers don’t really hold the same appeal to me.
There isn’t much in the way of variation for the missions, either – no matter what story you’re playing, the formula is more or less always defeat this group of enemies, move on, defeat another group, move on, defeat boss. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; this is pretty much an inherent problem in the genre as a whole. But sometimes you just need something that will let you tear through hordes of enemies, and Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is one such game.
When it comes down to it, Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus is pretty much just some mindless fun.